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Audio Drama Review


Doctor Who
The Companion Chronicles
Tales from the Vault


Starring: Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso
Big Finish Productions
RRP: £8.99 (CD), £7.99 (download)
ISBN: 978 1 84435 576 1
Available 31 July 2011

Welcome to the Vault - jokingly referred to as “the Museum of Terrors” - a high-security establishment in which UNIT keeps all of its alien artefacts. New recruit Warrant Officer Charlie Sato is given a guided tour by Captain Ruth Matheson, and the archive reveals some dark secrets. A Boer War army jacket, an abstract painting, an alien crystal and an old wax cylinder all hold a grave significance, and their stories are told by the Doctor’s companions: Steven Taylor, Zoe Heriot, Jo Grant and Romanadvoratrelundar...

Every now and then there comes a Companion Chronicle that is truly unusual, and Tales from the Vault is just such an example. Practically a full-cast audio drama, it stars Daphne Ashbrook and Yee Jee Tso (who appeared in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie) as a couple of UNIT operatives, Ruth Matheson and Charlie Sato. It’s great to have these actors back in Who again, but it’s a shame that copyright restrictions (Universal’s ownership of the characters of Grace Holloway and Chang Lee) prevent them from reprising their more familiar roles for Big Finish.

Ashbrook and Tso are supported by Katy Manning, Mary Tamm, Wendy Padbury and Peter Purves (in that order), who make brief, Companion Chronicle-style contributions as the recorded voices of the companions Jo, Romana, Zoe and Steven. The first recording is more of an anecdote than a story, but they get progressively more intricate and dramatically satisfying as the adventure unfolds. Writer Jonathan Morris also finds ways to bring variety to the recording methods themselves: Jo’s own taped files, Matheson’s interview with Romana, the crystallised memories of Zoe, and a degraded wax cylinder recording made by Steven. At first these excerpts appear to be connected only by the involvement of the Doctor and his companions, but ultimately there is an ingenious link...

Each of the companion actors provides his or her impersonation of the Doctor (Purves’s being the best, though the rest aren’t bad either) plus a few other characters. Tso is less convincing in a bit of doubling up that he has to do.

In terms of chronological placement, the back of the CD cover tells us only that “Tales from the Vault takes place at various points in the Doctor’s long life”. However, in my collection it will sit within the Key to Time season, owing to the fact that the most recent recording, from both the Doctor’s and UNIT’s point of view, is set during that era. By coincidence, this was when Who reached its 15th anniversary (between The Stones of Blood and The Androids of Tara), its 100th story (The Stones of Blood) and its 500th episode (Part One of The Armageddon Factor), so think of this as the multi-Doctor anniversary special that the TV series never gave us.


Richard McGinlay

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